NFPA Cites Safety Improvements Rising from 9/11

Communications and interoperability for emergency responders, high-rise building safety, and emergency preparedness have improved as "a direct outgrowth of 9/11, and each is central to that event's legacy of safety," NFPA Journal Staff Writer Fred Durso Jr. reports.

An article in the September/October 2011 issue of the NFPA Journal cites three main areas in which the National Fire Protection Association brought about large gains in safety and readiness as a direct result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The three are communications and interoperability for emergency responders, high-rise building safety, and emergency preparedness, all of which have improved as "a direct outgrowth of 9/11, and each is central to that event's legacy of safety," NFPA Journal Staff Writer Fred Durso Jr. writes in an article titled "A Decade of Difference."

He cites several NFPA standards developed or enhanced based on the lessons learned from the response, such as the need for an all-hazards approach. For example, NFPA 1981, a standard about SCBAs for emergency services, now requires these respiratory products to protect against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents. NFPA 1851, a standard about protective ensembles for structural and proximity firefighting, now covers cleaning and decontamination of the PPE, and NFPA 1561, Emergency Services Incident Management System, requires using "clear text" terminology during an incident instead of radio codes, Durso writes.

He recounts how NFPA's High-Rise Building Safety Advisory Committee, formed in 2004, developed proposals for NFPA's Fire Code, Life Safety Code, and Building Construction and Safety Code to implement recommendations from the NIST investigations (published in 2005 and 2008) into why three of the World Trade Center buildings collapsed after the 9/11 attacks. One change in NFPA 5000, the Building Construction and Safety Code, specifies wider exit stairs when a cumulative occupant load of 2,000 or more people is expected to use them, he writes.

NRPA 1600, the standard for disaster/emergency management and business continuity, has been available free since 2005; the 2010 edition is here. NFPA is developing a program to train people who are charged with auditing private-sector programs that use the 1600 standard, according to the article.

The Department of Homeland Security, itself created as a result of 9/11, has adopted 27 of NFPA's standards, Durso reports. He quotes Bert Coursey, DHS's standards executive: "We just finished our seventh annual program review of standards adopted by DHS. Our sense is that all of these standards organizations working with DHS have really stepped up to increase the body of standards for public safety and preparedness for the nation."

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